genetics

Dr. Kendall R Lamkey
Professor and Chair

Seed banks across the globe store and preserve the genetic diversity of millions of varieties of crops. This massive collection of genetic material ensures crop breeders access to a wealth of genetics with which to breed crops that yield better or resist stress and disease.

But, with a world of corn genetics at their disposal, how do plant breeders know which varieties are worth studying and which ones aren’t? For most of history, that required growing the varieties and studying their performance in the real world. But innovative data analytics and genomics could help plant breeders predict the performance of new varieties without having to go to the effort of growing them.

Overexpression of soybean gene might lead to resistance from SDS and more

No matter if it is 50 acres or 50,000, crop producers must hone their management practices to maximize yield while minimizing costs. Any number of different pathogens or pests can derail a good season. Soybean farmers in Iowa know how devastating they can be, with some causing millions in losses each year.

A recently published study led by Iowa State University scientists applied a fresh perspective to vast amounts of data on rice plants to find better ways to predict plant performance and new insights about how plants adapt to different environments.

The study, published in the academic journal Genome Research, unearthed patterns in datasets collected on rice plants across Asia, said Jianming Yu, professor of agronomy and Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding. Those patterns allowed the researchers to develop a matrix to help them predict the traits of rice plants depending on their genetics and the environment in which they’re grown. The research could improve the ability of farmers to predict how crop varieties will perform in various environments, giving growers a better sense of stability and minimizing risk, Yu said.

Thomas Lübberstedt is pushing the boundaries of genetics and its use in developing tools and methods to make plant breeding more efficient.

His work is leading to improved virus resistance and more sustainable agricultural systems around the world. The Frey Chair in Agronomy and Director of the Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding, Lübberstedt recently received the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Outstanding Achievement in Research Award.

International Credentials
Lübberstedt grew up on a horticultural farm in Germany and earned his degrees from the universities of Munich and Hohenheim. He spent several years working in Germany, and then Denmark, before coming to Iowa State in 2007 to take an endowed chair position.

Genetic engineering systems are critical tools to advance crop genomics research and related crop improvement efforts in the United States and worldwide. These tools have been limited, however, by the high complexity and low efficiency of current crop transformation processes.

To help overcome these limitations, the National Science Foundation has awarded $2.9 million to Iowa State University and University of Wisconsin scientists to develop the next generation of crop transformation tools and the crop geneticists who’ll put them to work.

Thoughts from our Anne Dinges who attended the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research last month at Kennesaw State University, just north of Atlanta, Georgia.

"It was a rewarding experience to present my research at a conference of 4,000 presenters. During my poster session, I had people that came up with varying levels of plant genetics knowledge. I was able to tell those with very little about my project, experience, and the potential impact it could have on farmers in the future. On the other hand, I had a couple in-depth conversations regarding current and future plant biotechnology with people that are studying exactly that at other universities.  

New research published this week identifies the genomic features that might have made domestication possible for corn and soybeans, two of the world’s most critical crop species.

The research, published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed academic journal Genome Biology, has implications for how scientists understand domestication, or the process by which humans have been able to breed plants for desirable traits through centuries of cultivation. The researchers drew on vast amounts of data on the genomes of corn and soybeans and compared particular sections of the genomes of wild species and domestic varieties, noting where the genomes diverged most markedly.

Kyle A King
Sotirios Archontoulis
Jode Edwards
Haochuan Li
Visiting Scholar (11/2017-12/2018)
Associate Professor, Henan Agricultural University, China(2011-present)

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